When Journalists Depart, Who Tells the Story? Press Releases and Broadcast-Ready Video Substitute for European Union Coverage, as News Organizations Cut Back on Staff Reporters in Brussels

By Jordan, Michael J. | Nieman Reports, Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

When Journalists Depart, Who Tells the Story? Press Releases and Broadcast-Ready Video Substitute for European Union Coverage, as News Organizations Cut Back on Staff Reporters in Brussels


Jordan, Michael J., Nieman Reports


At the age of 28, Irina Novakova holds a lofty perch in Bulgarian ournalism, covering Brussels as European Union (EU) correspondent for both the most serious newspaper and weekly magazine in Bulgaria. She is prominent among the pack of correspondents from ex-Communist Eastern Europe who try to explain the often bewildering EU to its newly democratic members. Nevertheless, she's anxious. The economic crisis is roiling the region's media. Finances are so bad for her paper in Sofia, the Bulgarian capital, that management hit the staff with pay cuts.

In Brussels, meanwhile, recent EU member Lithuania is already down to zero correspondents. The last Latvian fends for survival, and a Hungarian correspondent tells Novakova how his country's sagging interest in EU affairs may force him to freelance, moonlighting in public relations. A veteran Serbian correspondent whose postwar nation aspires to join the EU laments he might need to leave because no client in Belgrade can afford to pay him to report from there. Novakova has attended several farewell parties where the correspondent departs without being replaced.

This trend, though, is not limited to Eastern Europe. The EU press corps itself is dwindling: According to the International Press Association (IPA) in Brussels, the number of accredited reporters has shrunk from some 1,300 in 2005 to 964 in 2009.

What's happening in Brussels is part of the same storm system battering the journalism industry globally. The pressure is not only financial. EU agencies are embracing multimedia and using the Internet to deliver messages directly to constituents in what we might consider political spin-doctoring in real time. Back home, some editors think that European affairs, like so many other stories today, can be covered cheaply and easily from the newsroom via the Internet and telephone. Why keep a correspondent in pricey Brussels?

Novakova describes the "sense of gloom" that permeates the press corps. "I wouldn't call it a crisis or panic but when you talk to colleagues over a beer, they say, 'What can you do, these are the times we live in?'" she says. "There's a lot of dark humor. It's a sense of powerlessness that it's out of your control. Also, that you're not unique: What has hit the car-making industry or the banking industry in London is hitting us. It's in journalism. It's everywhere."

For denizens of its 27 member countries, what the EU does matters, as does the ability of voters back home to know how and why their representatives make their decisions. With fewer correspondents roaming the halls in Brussels, 500 million or so EU citizens are less informed about the policy decisions that affect their country and about the complex relations their country has with myriad European institutions.

Yet the vast EU public relations machinery--with its Webcast press conferences and well-written press releases along with its slick broadcast-ready video--has devalued, unintentionally, the work these foreign correspondents do in the eyes of consumers and editors alike, says Lorenzo Consoli, IPA president. When Consoli attends a Brussels press conference and asks a probing question, reporters back home who watch and listen on a computer, with press release in hand, can incorporate the answer (and the question, if they choose to) into their stories. Those stories can be published online before Consoli even returns to his office.

Follow this to its obvious conclusion, however, and we have to wonder who will be left to even ask questions? What happens when those who actually do reporting are no longer there?

Especially at times of crisis, such as when European nations this year grappled with Greece's financial situation, which sent the euro tumbling and EU members scrambling to find a viable solution. At that point, institutional knowledge and connection to reliable sources is vital. Reporters who've been covering the story for years are well positioned to dig deep and tell the story with confidence in the validity of information they have gathered. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

When Journalists Depart, Who Tells the Story? Press Releases and Broadcast-Ready Video Substitute for European Union Coverage, as News Organizations Cut Back on Staff Reporters in Brussels
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.